This week the content of a Wake Up Happy webinar had so much great content, I felt it deserved its own blog. The guest speaker was Dr. Fred Luskin, Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. You can read more about his work at Learning to Forgive.
Forgiveness is a big topic in its own right. I’m sure everyone reading this has been hurt in some way and may hold bitterness in their heart. These feelings have more consequences that we realize.
When you hold onto “junk” from your past, it makes it very difficult to be happy.
By “junk” I mean things like anger and grudges that could be resolved by forgiving and letting go. If we don’t learn to let go of these negative emotions, the stress of them has health consequences, such as high blood pressure, muscle tension, anxiety and more. Forgive what happened and move on, before we create serious physical damage to ourselves.
The ability to forgive is inside of everyone. We are hard-wired with the capacity to be positive; we just have to learn how to access it.
This takes us back to the idea of choosing happiness and focusing on the positives instead of the pain. By saying “I’ll never get over it” you create strong mental pathways that make getting over it difficult, says Dr. Luskin. We need to cut through the layers of damage and reach a sense of forgiveness. Start saying to ourselves that we can get over it.
Are you creating an “emotional prison” for yourself by holding onto grudges instead of forgiving?
Have you made the decision that you are going to forgive? We need to make a decision about what kind of life it is that we want.
Have you said to yourself, “I’ve suffered enough. There’s nothing I can do with this. I am stewing in my anger, so I need to change. It is up to me to make that change. Do I want to keep suffering, or embrace happiness for myself?” The decision is up to you.
Forgiveness is a subsection of the happiness decision.
When you blame anyone from your past for why you’re not happy today, that’s a real problem. It’s tempting to blame outside sources for all of our suffering, but that is not the path to creating a better life. Sometimes it’s easier to blame others, and parents oftentimes get the bad rap. Maybe they didn’t do a great job, but now in the present, it’s up to us to make ourselves happier and more forgiving.
The decision to be happy and forgive means you have to work at it. We can only control our own lives; looking back with anger and blame will only cause us more hurt. One exercise you can do is to write a letter to your parent explaining why something she/he did may have hurt you. Don’t mail it! Just put it in a drawer. This act in itself can be very cathartic.
It takes a lot of effort to let go of anger and grudges, but there is a major pay-off: better health and wellbeing!
It takes a lot of work to be happy, but it also takes a lot of work to be unhappy! Put your effort towards the happy!
Try an exercise this week: choose one person who might have been unkind to you, and do something kind for that person. You will feel all the better when you do this, not only emotionally but physically.
Put forgiveness into action. “Let it go.”